Skip to navigation Skip to Content
Join a world-class health system. Find Jobs

Communication tips for cancer survivors

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​It is said that a wise health consumer is an emotionally healthy self-advocate. 

This sentiment may especially ring true if a serious illness, such as cancer, has unexpectedly become a major focus in your life.

When people face something unfamiliar – a new community, a new job, or a new medical diagnosis – they often look to others to help them understand what to do. 

Often, communication about cancer can be filled with fear and uncertainty. 

Yet, tried and true communication tips can help transform challenges into meaningful experiences for people experiencing cancer and those who make the journey with them - all of whom are cancer survivors.

Keep in mind that good communication does not mean perfect communication. 

It simply means that two or more people do their best to help each other tell the story and be understood clearly. 

An important first step toward being a wise health consumer is practicing five basic communication tips that the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship recommends in their “Cancer Survival Toolbox”:

  • Be assertive - Say what you need to say in ways that make it clear to others that what you have to say is important.
  • Use “I” statements - Make statements with the word "I" in them, such as "I feel" or "I think," rather than making statements like, "you should."
  • Be an active listener - Listen to someone carefully and then check the message with them to make sure that what you heard is correct.
  • Match your verbal and nonverbal communication - Keep in mind that if your facial expressions or actions send a different message from your words, like smiling when you tell someone you are in pain, people may be confused.
  • Express your emotions - Let others know how you feel as well as what you think.

Most importantly, as you put these tools to work for you, be yourself and try not to worry about whether your communication skills are textbook perfect. 

Let your words and your actions come from the wisdom of your heart.

Contact us for care

If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

Call: 1-866-520-2510

(Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.)